Camping in the backyard is an easy, inexpensive way to have fun and enjoy the outdoors as a family. (It doubles as a unique birthday party or sleepover idea too!)
Whether you just want a few hours of recreation or you plan to sleep under the stars, use this checklist to make sure the day goes off without a hitch.
If you'll be heading indoors before bedtime this is optional, but having an outdoor shelter of any kind is exciting for kids and part of the fun. Instead of a camping tent – or, if you don’t have one – get creative by stretching a sheet or blanket between two trees or draping one over a clothesline.
Sleeping Bags and Pillows
By day they’re a great place to curl up with a book or watch the clouds roll by; by night, they’re a must-have for a comfortable night’s sleep. No sleeping bags? No problem! Grab a thick blanket you don’t mind getting a little dirty and spread it out over the grass. When it’s time to pack it in, just toss it in the wash with a couple Tide PODS to take care of the grass stains.
Bug bites can really suck the fun out of a campout, so keep them at bay with repellent sprays and citronella candles, or make your own repellent by mixing one part eucalyptus oil to 15 parts cooking oil in a clean spray bottle. Pro tip: Swap aloe vera gel for the cooking oil and you get a bug repellent that’s also a moisturizer.
Flashlights or Glow Sticks
Don’t let the fun stop once the sun goes down! Summer nights are great for telling stories around a campfire or exploring the backyard, and a little light can go a long way.
It's always a good idea to have a small first-aid kit on hand, but also remember to bring inhalers or an epinephrine injector for serious allergies, in case of an emergency.
Chips, crackers and trail mix are always popular with kids, and as a bonus, you don't have to worry about vacuuming up crumbs!
S'mores or Hot Dogs
If you have a fire pit, you have no excuse not to enjoy these classic camping treats. Just be sure to have plenty of Bounty paper towels on hand to help with the sticky marshmallow mess.
Water and Sunscreen
All that running around in the sunshine means you need to do two things: stay hydrated and keep your skin protected. Grab plenty of water and, before you go out, make sure all the kids (and you!) are wearing sunscreen and have appropriate protection from any elements.
Reacquaint yourselves with the overlooked details around your yard. A few simple items like a magnifying glass, bug net and binoculars instantly transform kids into explorers.
It's fun to see things from your kids' perspective, so give them an old camera or a disposable one and encourage them to click to their hearts' content.
Tell Campfire Stories
Spooky ghost stories are most commonly told on campsites at night, but younger audiences might prefer fairy tales or stories about themselves as babies. Telling a group tale, in which each person takes a turn adding a twist to the plot, sparks creativity and usually ends with a lot of laughs.
When camping in your own backyard, you don't have to go far or do a lot of planning to feel like you've been on an adventure. With these suggestions and a few materials you probably already have around the house, you can easily create lasting family memories this weekend.